Sorry for the pun in the title but I couldn't help myself. Anyway onto the story:
There are some big differences between this year's New York Rangers and last years. You could start with the perennial superstar in Marian Gaborik, a talent that the Rangers have missed for far too long. You could look at the coaching staff with the no nonsense John Tortorella behind the bench. You could even look at the hunger that this team possesses with young talent in Brandon Dubinsky, Ryan Callahan, Artem Anisimov, Marc Staal, Dan Girardi and even Marian Gaborik to name a few. A hunger that they sorely lacked last year. While all of those things have contributed to the Rangers red hot 6-1-0 start by far the biggest difference is the power play.
Wednesday night the power play was 2 for 4. On the season the Rangers power play is becoming lethal having converted 9 of the last 27 power plays, an unbelievable 33% (my numbers might be a little off). Last year the Rangers were horrific on the power play. There was no jump, no spark, no one in front of the net and most importantly no one to man the point. Shots usually came from the likes of Redden and Michael Rozsival and they were simply thoughtless slap shots from the point. If they hit the net good, if they missed oh well. But not this team, and not this year.
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When Rangers General Manager Glen Sather announced that he signed free agent Ales Kotalik to a three year 9 million dollar contract Rangers fans started to riot. Now you all remember me writing a little piece on this after the deal was announced defending Kotalik, most of you disagreed.
I am sure that when Glen Sather was reviewing Kotalik's file he saw what Kotalik can do for a power play. He saw a player who had a great shot and who can competently run the point; just what the doctor ordered. What he saw is what we are currently seeing; the man has an absolute cannon for a slap shot. I do believe it was Dave Maloney who said during a game: "man let me tell you the boards make a different kinda sound when Kotalik's shot hits them!"
It has become crystal clear that a hard accurate shot from the point can help turn around a power play. A great shot from the point forces defenses to pressure the point more, leaving the forwards more space to work down low. And in the case of the defense not pressuring the point then Kotalik can let a few of his lasers go and probably light the lamp or at least cause some havoc.
Is Kotalik the only reason why the power play has been sucessful? No, there are pleanty of other reasons. But having a legit man to run the point makes a huge difference. Having a guy who looks for the net makes a huge difference. And as you can see having a power play that is actually converting makes a huge difference.